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History of the Modern Protestant Missions Movement

Part 3

Four years after the Edinburg Conference, the world was gripped by the sudden outbreak of one of the worst military conflicts in the history of the earth- the First World War. Protestant missions efforts were interrupted as the world was engulfed in this crisis. By the time the dust cleared in 1918, the entire world was nearly unrecognizable- the old order had been swept away in the conflict.

The era of empires had come crashing down. Gone was the German, Russian and Ottoman Empires and deeply broken were those of the British and French. Besides the immediate infrastructural devastation of Western Europe, the deaths of over 16 million young men in combat and 40 million people from the simultaneous global flu pandemic, a much deeper loss had taken place. The deep sense of optimism in human progress, prosperity and the advancement of Western utopianism that had marked the 19th century was dashed to pieces in the trench warfare of the Great War.

This affected all levels of society across the world. Europe’s prosperity and peace had been understood to be the success of not just Western ideology and culture but of Christianity itself. The Postmillennialism that had marked early Western missions exploits was harnessed to this concept and when it all came crashing down this theology was abandoned- it had been destroyed in the war along with the old order. In the face of such unspeakable suffering, people no longer believed that the Kingdom of God would physically advance unhindered towards greater levels of glory, prosperity and victory in unrelenting progress. Deep pessimism and disillusionment fell upon the modern Western world. More than the failure of Western civilization, the First World War was seen in the eyes of many to be the failure of Christianity.

Many people -both Christian and otherwise- began to question the legitimacy of Christianity itself. If Europe -the beacon of Christianity in the world- could completely destroy itself in such a catastrophe, how could Christianity as a faith be legitimate? This disillusionment affected even the most devout believers; the entire superstructure of Western Christianity felt the shock to the system- including the missions movement.  

The SVM was one of many organizations deeply impacted by the devastation of the war. In their 1919 conference, the former optimistic tone of SVM leaders had been replaced with a need to defend the faith itself in the face of disillusionment among the students present. Robert Speer is quoted in his address to those present at the conference as saying, “I am going to open quite candidly the questions that some of you have been discussing right here in these days as to whether there is worth enough in our Christian faith… There are men here in this conference, women too, who are saying that Christianity here in America, and as expressed by this Student Volunteer Convention, is a failure… No, Jesus hasn’t failed, and He isn’t going to fail. But I tell you men and women that there is a danger here of failure tonight- that we ourselves may fail.” In spite of the pleas of leaders, the disillusionment among SVM students continued. An observer at their conference five years later is quoted as saying, “There was not any expression or conviction on the part of the students that the way of Jesus is the way.” In fact, although the SVM would continue to make a tremendous impact on the missions world for many more years, its terminal end can be traced back to this traumatic post-war period.

This was not exclusive to only SVM. Rather, the events within the ranks of SVM was symptomatic of a broader and more general chagrin within the Protestant missions world. Along with the psychological challenge from the war, the expenses of the war began to effect missions organizations and many of them went into debt. Many people began to stop giving to missions exploits and it is reported that many students interviewed for missions admitted that their main focus was not missions, but was to secure a career to make lots of money. Students, long the bulk of the missionary movement, were now unenthusiastic about missions. Recruitment numbers dropped dramatically and missions agencies began to dwindle. This represented the beginning of a major decline in Western Protestant missions.

The pre-war world and framework that Protestant missions had functioned within had been broken by the conflict in Europe. The financial, cultural, emotional and theological challenges from World War 1 nearly ended the Protestant missions movement. It would not be for another twenty years that it would once again gain momentum. However, when that momentum resumed, it would come back with an incredible shift in global missions strategy- one that has remained with us to this day.

 

The Third Era- Unreached People Groups (1935- Present)

 

During the difficult years of the early 20th century, in the midst of great challenges to Protestant missions, two men stood out as significant influential leaders in their generation. Their contributions to the advancement of the Great Commission -comparable to that of Carey and Taylor- have had far reaching effects that are still felt to this day in that they were critical in the initiation of the Third Era of Protestant missions. These men are Cameron Townsend and Donald McGavran.

Cameron Townsend was born in Eastvale, California on July 9, 1896. While attending Occidental College in Los Angeles during his junior year, John Mott of the SVM visited the campus and called the student body to give their lives for missions. Cameron soon responded to the call by meeting with Mott, joining the Student Volunteer Movement and dedicating his life to missions. Although he was part of the armed forces in the war, he was challenged by a friend to honor his commitment to the SVM and made the decision to request to be discharged and pursue missions in Guatemala.

He left for Guatemala in August of 1917 and committed to stay there for one year. Towards the end of his initial commitment, he had an encounter with an indigenous Cakchiquel Indian that approached him as he was distributing Spanish Bibles. The man asked him what the Bible was and Townsend explained what it was God’s very word. The Cakchiquel Indian famously reported to have said, “If your God is so smart, why doesn’t he speak my language?”. Cameron suddenly realized that although the man lived in a predominantly Spanish speaking country, he spoke no Spanish whatsoever.

This encounter marked him in a significant way. He soon met with an older group of missionaries who had already concluded the need to reach indigenous populations in their own languages and then began his work. At the age of 23, he decided to remain in Guatemala for 13 more years, dedicating 10 of those years to translating the Bible into the Cakchiquel language. He realized that although much of the geography of the world was being reached by Protestant missions, there was an entirely new and much more nuanced frontier that was unreached: distinct ethnic peoples.

Cameron founded Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1934. This new mission agency focused on teaching linguistics as a means to reach these new frontiers. Initially, Cameron estimated there were about 500 people groups in the earth. He revised these numbers several times and today they are estimated at over 5000. There are still roughly about 3000 languages without the Bible translated in the earth. Cameron is credited for the initiation of the Third Era of missions. The focus of this new era transcended the traditional geographic focus of missions and instead concentrated on ethnic people groups.

Meanwhile, as Townsend was discovering the linguistic nuances of people groups in Guatemala, Donald McGavran was discovering the social and cultural barriers in India. McGavran was born in Damoh, India in 1897 as a third generation missionary. In 1919, while a student at Butler University, McGavran visited Des Moines, Iowa to attend an SVM convention and was deeply influenced by John Mott. McGavran described the event as, “There is became clear to me that God was calling me to be a missionary, that He was commanding me to carry out the Great Commission”.

McGavran returned to India in 1923 and was deeply influenced by the anthropological work of J.W. Pickett who documented mass people movements to Christ in India. McGavran was troubled by the slow growth of his churches while at the same time he saw many “people movements” (thousands of people in groups) scattered across India coming to the Lord. In this time, he began see the distinct cultural and social barriers in India and started to promote the reality of homogenous units of people which are today referred to as “people groups”. McGavran’s missiological work in his book, “Bridges of God” helped to formalize the understanding of distinct boundaries within different regions that constituted unique ethnic “people groups”.

The collective work of Townsend and McGavran (both greatly impacted by the Student Volunteer Mission Movement) framed the new era of missions by calling attention to the various ethnolinguistic people groups in the earth as opposed to the more simplified geographical focus in past generations.

The progressive decline in Protestant missions that had came about after the First World War came to an end after the Second World War in 1945. The missions movement was being revitalized by thousands of veterans who were returning from Europe and the Pacific with a deep burden to bring the gospel to the places they saw that had been ravaged by the war. In 1946, 575 students from 151 different schools gathered at the University of Toronto to dream for a fresh student movement for missions. Two years later, in 1948, they gathered for another missions convention at the University of Illinois, Urbana. Urbana student missions conventions have continued to this day with the expressed purpose of mobilization for the Great Commission.

Out of the Urbana conventions, many veterans from the Second World War who had a desire to return to the foreign lands to bring the gospel were sent back out as missionaries. The experience of the war had prepared many of them so that they went out into the missions field with extraordinary effectivity. Collectively, God used them to rally another massive student-led missions movement. In the late 1940’s through the early 1950’s, more students went overseas for missions than in any other time in history- including the great Student Volunteer Missions Movement which by this time was nearly discontinued. It was this missions thrust that produced such incredible laborers as Jim Elliot, who would be martyred in Ecuador in 1956 for the sake of the gospel of Jesus.

Although the students of the 1960’s embraced more anti-government and liberal activism (thus resulting in a decline of missionaries) the 1970’s witnessed an increase of missions interest through the Urbana student missionary conventions and the Jesus Movement. Within a few years, the amount of students signing up for missions increased by nearly ten times that of 1970.

In July of 1974, one of the most significant missions conferences in history was held in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Lausanne Congress of 1974 (Also known as the First International Congress on World Evangelization) was called together by Billy Graham for a discussion on the present state of missions. With over 150 nations represented, Lausanne sought to follow in succession from the 1910 Edinburgh Conference and strategized for the completion of the Great Commission. Out of the congress the Lausanne Covenant (one of the great manifestos on world missions) was produced and signed by nearly three thousand leaders.

Ralph Winter, one of the most influential men in the history of missions attended the congress. He is widely acknowledged to be just as catalytic in the development of Protestant missions as Carey, Taylor, Townsend, and McGavran. Winter understood that the gospel does not naturally transfer from different cultures or castes even if the people share the same language. It was at the Lausanne Congress that Winter championed the work of Townsend and McGavran and popularized the concept of unreached people groups using an understanding of the biblical word ethnos as a missions strategy. He declared that for the Great Commission to be fulfilled, the gospel had to be planted in each culturally unique ethnolinguistic people group. His speech took Lausanne by storm.

Six years later, in 1980, another missions conference was held in Edinburgh, Scotland known as The Edinburgh- 1980 World Consultation on Frontier Missions. At the time, it was the largest missions conference in the history of Christianity. Remarkably, a third of those present at Edinburgh were indigenous representatives from the Global South representing 57 mission agencies- in 1910 there had been none. In Edinburgh, the strategy of focusing missions to unreached ethnolinguistic people groups became solidified. As a result of these developments, it is generally regarded that the Second Era of missions found its completion in 1980 as the missions world transitioned to a premier focus of unreached and unengaged peoples.

In 1989, at the Second International Congress on World Evangelization (Lausanne II) in Manilla, Christian missionary strategist Luis Bush called for a focused missional thrust into the “Resistant Belt” of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Following the strategy of unreached people groups missions, Bush and his associates understood that the remaining task of the world evangelism could only be accomplished by pushing into this massive “Belt”. The next year, Bush and his wife Doris used software to analyze this “Resistant Belt” region between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude and coined the famous term, “the 10/40 Window”. This region, the world of Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism was referred to in 1911 by the great missionary Samuel Zwemer as the, “unoccupied fields” of the earth.

 

Finishing the Task

 

Since 1990, the world of missions has continued to evolve. The Toronto and Brownsville revivals in the mid-nineties fueled the fire of world evangelization and served the development of the missional Global South tremendously. Today, the Christian world is no longer Western-led. The Global South is no longer “developing”. In many ways, it has already emerged and has taken the lead in the task of world evangelization.

Today, the church in Africa and Asia represents over 60% of the world’s population of Christians. Meanwhile, the church of Europe is dying out. The church of America has maintained roughly the same growth ratio as the year 1900. In 1900, there were 8 million Christians in Africa; in 2000, there were 351 million. African evangelicals send out approximately 13,000 missionaries a year.

The story is similar in Asia. In 1900 there were around 22 million Christians. In 2005 there are estimated 370 million believers, making Christianity the fastest growing religion in Asia.

In Latin America there were estimated 700,000 evangelicals in 1900. By 2000 the numbers had grown to over 55 million believers.

Today the missions dynamics are no longer primarily west-to-east. The Global South has assumed a significant role in the sending of missionaries There are more African missionaries than European ones. Missionaries from Brazil travel across the earth sharing the good news of Jesus. In China, the “Back to Jerusalem” missionary movement has already begun and endeavors to send hundreds of thousands of missionaries across the 10/40 Window.

The task remains massive. After twenty centuries of missions activity there is still about 27% of the world that remains unreached (comprising over 7000 people groups). Since 1974, the strategy in place is to reach ethnic people groups with the gospel- an effort that transcends geopolitical boundaries and classical missions strategies. Today, the West no longer leads the charge but rather partners shoulder to shoulder with the Global South.

Since the day that Jesus stood before His disciples and friends and gave them the Great Commision He has guided generations of faithful men and women towards its completion. He promised that the good news of His coming Kingdom would be spread across the earth as a testimony to every ethnos and then He would return to restore all things. If there is one thing that can be drawn from looking back on the last 300 years of Protestant Missions history, it’s that Jesus is alive. He is with us. He is active in His Church in the earth by His Spirit. He has driven and is driving all of our missions efforts to a marvelous conclusion and the gates of hell will never prevail against His Church. As we now turn our eyes ahead to what lies before us and as we seek to finish this Great Commission, we can be certain of His most blessed and profound promise: “Lo I am with you always, even to the very end of the age”.

 

 

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History of the Modern Protestant Missions Movement

Part 2

Pressing On

The collective force of the first two Great Awakenings transformed the Protestant world from a mere theological and ecclesiological western European movement into a pioneering missional force to be reckoned with, piercing nearly every known nation in the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The 19th century, known as the, “Great Century” of missions, witnessed the spread and advancement of the gospel like no other prior century in history. The outpourings of God’s Spirit in Europe and the Americas had created a mighty force of sacrificial missionaries, most of whom lost their lives as heralds of the message of the cross of Jesus on the coastlands of Asia and Africa.

The era of the Second Great Awakening came to a close in a very turbulent and transitional time in America, most notably with the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Europe and Asia starting around 1850. In this time it is estimated that over 20 million immigrants moved to America from central and eastern Europe as well as Asia. At the same time, Darwinism and higher criticism were flooding over into the Americas from Europe, challenging much of the old order of Christian thinking and society. It was in this context of transition and crisis that God began to stir hearts of believers once again for a new era of missions.

We will continue to examine the history of Protestant missions starting from the mid 19th century all the way to today. The last 150 years has witnessed an even greater development and diversification of missions across the nations of the earth. This development has dramatically changed the face of world missions so that today the Global South (the non-Western world) has taken the leading role in the task of world evangelisation. Through an examination of the last 150 years of missions history we can begin to understand how a series of interrelated events crescendoed to produce our current missional focus in the nations: missions targeting unreached ethnolinguistic peoples in the predominantly North African, Middle Eastern and Asian world. We pick up our story just one month after the end of the American Civil War in the summer of 1865 on the beaches of southern England.

Transition to The Second Era – Inlands (1865-1980) & Hudson Taylor

The results of the First Era of missions had been remarkable. Although slow to gain momentum and at a tremendous cost, (nearly every missionary succumbed to death in their endeavors on the coastlands) the First Era of missions finally stabilized into a magnificent success as the gospel began to take root in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific. In fact, by 1865, many missionaries of the First Era were beginning to come home due to the overwhelming success of their church planting efforts in the coastlands. Many indigenous people had come to the faith in Christ and the First Era missionaries believed that, in a sense, their job was finished.

This marked a transitional overlapping period from roughly 1865-1910 where First Era, coastlands missions began to slowly decline while the Second Era missions (directed towards penetrating the inlands of the Asian and African continents) began to gain speed. It is important to note that in spite of the numerous missions societies produced out of the Haystack Prayer Meeting of 1806, the First Era of missions was marked by European dominance. It would not be until the beginning of the Second Era in 1865 that America began to assume a premier role in the task of world evangelization. It was in this year that a man named Hudson Taylor took the scene to catalyze a new movement of Protestant missions.

Hudson Taylor was born May 21, 1832 in Yorkshire, England to a Methodist family. His father was a lay preacher and chemist in the Yorkshire area. It is said that at Hudson’s birth, his parents who had a fascination with the Far East, prayed to the Lord, “Grant that he may work for You in China”. After abandoning the faith of his parents for several years as a young man, he had a conversion experience at the age of 17 in the year 1849. Immediately, Hudson had a burden for the gospel to go to China. In preparation to be a missionary, he began to teach himself Mandarin, Latin, Hebrew and Greek while working as a medical assistant. During this time, Taylor interacted with missionaries to Baghdad who were part of the well known Plymouth Brethren, of which George Müller was a member.

During the time Taylor was practicing medicine and preparing to move overseas, much of England’s focus and talk was interestingly enough on China. In the 1850’s the horrific Taiping Civil War broke out across China led by a religious fanatic named Hong Xiuquan. Xiuquan, having interacted with First Era missionaries years prior, adopted a pseudo-Christianity syncretized with Confucianism and Daoism. He soon established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and declared himself to be the actual younger brother of Jesus Christ that could speak on behalf of the Holy Trinity. Xiquan launched a civil war to control all of China that killed upwards of 70 million people before he was finally defeated in 1864. Tragically, the erroneous impression in England was that this was a massive people movement to Christ in China. Out of news of this “people movement”, the Chinese Evangelisation Society was formed in 1853 to prepare for missionaries to be sent into China- Hudson Taylor was sent as their first missionary at the age of 22.

After a difficult five month voyage from England, Taylor landed in Shanghai March 1, 1854 and was met with the astounding horror of the Taiping Civil War. Far from a great people movement to Christ, his first year overseas was marked with the chaos of the war and very little receptivity to his message. Along with the trial of the war, Taylor also experienced challenges in his interactions with the First Era missionaries who were content to remain ministering in the cities on the coastlands. Taylor viewed the missionaries on the coastlands as worldly and lethargic, who spent far too much time with English businessmen. Regardless of whether or not his view was accurate, Taylor intended to push beyond the status quo of the missions of the day and press into the interior of China. During his time, Taylor pioneered some of the earliest and most famous forms of contextualization to the Chinese culture by wearing traditional Chinese clothing and hairstyles instead of the typical Western garb of his contemporaries. While this choice caused great consternation among other Christians both in China and abroad, Taylor began to see an immediate openness among the Chinese people to his gospel message. This pioneering contextualization has transformed the way Protestants approach foreign cultures in missions even to this day.

Trials continued to follow him. At one point, all of his medical supplies were destroyed in a fire in Shanghai. Another time he was robbed of almost everything he owned while traveling across China. The next year in 1857, Taylor experienced great difficulty with his missions agency who could no longer continue to pay him and his fellow workers. After an encouraging letter from George Müller to live by faith, Taylor resigned from the Chinese Evangelisation Society and continued independently. The next year he married Maria Dyer (a fellow missionary who at the time was serving under Mary Aldersey, reputed to be the first woman missionary to China) and continued to serve in Ningpo with a new church plant of 21 people until 1861, when he was forced to temporarily return to England due to health problems.

It was on this furlough in England that the Second Era of missions was officially born. He spent his time on furlough traveling the nation to mobilize missions to China and the unreached world. On this trip he became friends with Charles Spurgeon, who would become a lifelong supporter of Taylor’s mission. During this time, Taylor was invited by a friend to take a break from traveling and come to the beaches of Brighton in southern England.

While walking the beaches of Brighton, he felt the overwhelming burden of the Lord for the millions of lost in China and had a dramatic encounter with the Jesus that changed the course of history. In that moment, Hudson Taylor dedicated his life in an even greater measure to the advancement of the gospel in the unreached inland provinces of China. June 25, 1865, on the sands of Brighton Beach, China Inland Mission was born as an expression of his dedication to this advancement.

Immediately Taylor asked the Lord for 24 more missionaries for all of the unreached provinces in China and Mongolia- a massive 25% increase from what was already present on the field. In the next few years, over 100 missionaries would go to the missions field through China Inland Mission. Over half of those missionaries would be martyred years later in the infamous Boxer Rebellion of 1900, much to the agony of Taylor who received reports of their deaths while visiting England on a separate furlough.

He returned to China in 1866 and would dedicate the rest of his life ministering there as a missionary in the interior of the nation. Through many difficult years, and through the loss of two wives and several children to infirmity, he paid a tremendous price to carry out God’s will in his generation. On June 3, 1905, Hudson Taylor died in Changsha, China. He was buried in Zhenjiang along the Yangtze River next to the love of his life, his first wife Maria, who had been buried there 35 years before.

Taylor’s decision on the sands of Brighton Beach to give himself entirely into the grace of God for the advancement of world missions opened the way for the birth of China Inland Mission, which would become the largest Protestant missions agency in the world by the time of his death and would fling wide the doors for the Second Era of missions. The legacy of CIM (now Overseas Missionary Fellowship International) is still felt to this day and the work of Hudson Taylor will be spoken of for ages to come.

The Student Volunteer Missions Movement

While Hudson Taylor was pioneering missions in China, God was raising up a mighty missions movement in the United States. The Student Volunteer Missions (SVM) Movement was beginning to form in the hearts and minds of young believers across the country. This movement became perhaps the single greatest missions force in North American history and accelerated the sending and going of laborers far beyond anything that Protestantism had witnessed up to that point.

The SVM had its origins in the famous Haystack Prayer Meeting of 1806. Out of that prayer meeting at Williams College numerous missions societies and organizations were born, including the Society of Brethren at Andover Theological Seminary in Newton, Massachusetts. One of its members, a man by the name of Royal Wilder, left for India as a missionary in 1846 and returned with his family in 1877. Royal’s son, Robert was to become a premier leader in the upcoming missions movement.

Robert Wilder was born in India in 1863 and returned to America at age 14. He joined Princeton University and began to pray with several students on campus for missions and revival in Princeton. During that time he founded the “Princeton Foreign Mission Society” and continued to pray fervently with fellow students and his sister Grace on a weekly basis for God to raise up 1000 missionaries to be sent overseas. Their society declared of themselves, “willing and desirous, God permitting, to go to the unevangelized portions of the world”.

In the same year, Luther Wishard became the first secretary of the new intercollegiate YMCA division. Luther’s desire was not only for the gospel to impact college campuses through the YMCA, but also for it to impact the nations through world missions. In 1879, Wishard helped to organize the first missions department of the intercollegiate YMCA. He was deeply inspired by the events at the Haystack Prayer Meeting and the life of Samuel Mills and traveled to Williams College to pray for a missions movement. At the site of the old prayer meeting, along the river, Luther prayed, “Lord, do it again. Where water once flowed, let it flow again.” Although he greatly desired to be a missionary, he felt the burden of the Lord to mobilize a generation of students for the task of world evangelization. After his trip to Williams College, he sought to host a summer conference for college students and left to seek out revivalist D.L. Moody to help in this endeavor.

D.L. Moody, the great American evangelist, had visited Britain in 1882 to tour the country and preach the gospel. During this year, he visited the university of Cambridge and shared the gospel and mobilized for world missions. The results were staggering. Many Cambridge students began to sign up for local missions societies to go overseas. During this time, there was an increasing interest among the students in the recently formed China Inland Mission.

Out of Moody’s meetings in Cambridge, the Holy Spirit began to move across the hearts of seven brilliant young students in particular for missions overseas. After graduation, they traveled throughout England and Scotland visiting colleges and churches mobilizing for world missions. These became known as the Cambridge Seven. In February of 1885, after several months of traveling, the Cambridge Seven sailed to China to give their lives for missions. One of the seven, a man named Charles Thomas, would later become the successor to Hudson Taylor as the director of CIM. The news of the Cambridge Seven began to sweep through American colleges and many students became deeply inspired by their example to pursue missions.  It was out of these events that Luther Wishard sought out the help of D.L Moody and others for the mobilization of missionaries from the American college campuses.

In 1886, Wishard approached Moody about hosting a month long summer Bible conference at his Mount Hermon School for Boys in Massachusetts. Moody, although uncertain that students would want to take a month of their summer for the conference, finally agreed to host it. Beginning July 7, 1886, the conference continued until August 1. Although Wishard desired for students to be raised up for world missions, the conference itself did not have a specific agenda. 251 young men from 89 colleges across America attended and numerous speakers and professors came to speak and share during the duration of the conference. Remarkably, in spite of Wishard’s missions zeal, there was no real missional emphasis present during the conference initially. This emphasis would come from the student body itself, led by Robert Wilder.

Wilder sent word during the conference that any students who were interested in missions should join in a special meeting. Out of that meeting, 21 students joined the Princeton Foreign Mission Society. Soon the 21 students began to spread the word to the broader student body about the need of missionaries. They approached several leaders to share on missions but in particular they asked a well known pastor present named A.T. Pierson to share on the Great Commission at one of the main sessions. Pierson’s call to evangelize the world in their generation shook the conference with a missions spirit and by the end of the conference 100 students signed up to give their lives as missionaries. They became known as the “Mount Hermon 100” and with this the SVM was born.

The next year, Wilder and an associate John Forman traveled across America preaching at almost 200 college campuses mobilizing for world missions. Within two years over 5000 students had signed the pledge to give their lives as missionaries. In 1888, the “Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions” was officially established and John Mott, one of the original 100, was chosen to serve as chairman. Within five years of Mount Hermon there were 6200 student volunteers from 352 schools in the United States and Canada, encompassing a vast array of denominations and social backgrounds. Their watchword, officially adopted in 1889, was, “The Evangelisation of the World in This Generation”. The leaders of this movement truly believed that the completion of the Great Commission was possible in their generation and they proved it by the incredible thrust of missionaries into the unreached, inland world.

Over 40% of the students went to China, Japan, Korea and other parts of Southeast Asia. 21% went to India, Burma and Sri Lanka. The rest went to Africa, Iran, the Ottoman Empire, Arabia and many other unreached places. In 1890, there were only 934 Protestant missionaries on the field. By the end of the 1920’s, there were over 14,000 missionaries-  half of whom had signed on through the SVM.

The powerful Student Volunteer Movement pierced into the darkness of the unreached inland world for decades. It is undisputed that the Protestant missions thrust was spearheaded for years by college students. To this day, the SVM represents the single greatest movement of missionaries to the nations in American history.

Although the First World War caused the movement to go into terminal decline, by 1945 the SVM in total had rallied over 100,000 volunteers with over 20,500 actually sent as missionaries (the rest remained to mobilize). Because of the unimaginably wild success of the Student Volunteer Missions Movement, the United States took the leading role in the advancement of world missions, which it would maintain for the better part of a century.

Turbulence & Transition of the Early 20th Century

As the “Great Century” of world missions came to a close so did the era of relatively unchallenged progress in Protestant missions. Although there were always challenges to the objective of world evangelisation, (such as theological opposition, the daunting task of mobilization and martyrdom to name a few) the 19th century witnessed a steady overwhelming progress of missions efforts.

This progress is to be understood within the framework of the broader 19th century social and theological optimism. The Western world of the mid to late 19th century was deeply optimistic due to the social and cultural expansion of Westernism through colonial influence. The Industrial Revolution had ushered in a new era of technological and economic growth; It seemed that anything was possible.

Even in the Protestant missions world, the continued prevalence of Postmillennial theology and the increased expansion of the gospel on the earth through the enormous missions exploits crystalized this sense of mirthful optimism. In the last few decades of the 19th century it seemed that no matter where one looked, societal progress was everywhere. All of this began to come crashing down at the turn of the century through a series of events culminating in the outbreak of the First World War. In the midst of this turbulence there was a deep undercurrent of transition running through the Protestant missions world; the balance of global mission leadership was beginning to shift away from the West.

In April and May of 1900, Protestant missions leaders from various denominations gathered from across the nation in New York to strategize for the advancement of world missions. They discussed the need to mobilize more Christian congregations and turn the public support towards missions in a greater measure. This became known as the New York 1900 Ecumenical Missionary Conference. The leaders present shared on the testimony of the magnificent expansion of Christianity during the 19th century as well as to cast vision and discuss strategy for the new century that was upon them. The sense at the conference was one of great triumph and joyful expectation of what was to come.

The very next month, in June 1900, the Boxer Rebellion in China took a tragic turn after one of the governors of northern China declared war against Western powers and Christians in particular. In July, 44 Christians from missionary families were massacred after being promised shelter in a provincial capital in the infamous Taiyuan Massacre.

By the end of the rebellion, 136 Protestant missionaries, 53 of their children (many of them served with China Inland Mission) and 2,000 Chinese Protestants were martyred by the rebels. These Protestants became known as the China Martyrs of 1900. Along with Protestant martyrs, 47 Catholic priests and nuns, over 30,000 Chinese Catholics and several hundred Russian Orthodox believers were murdered.

The sum impact of the Boxer Rebellion was a withdrawal of European influence in Chinese affairs and a shock to the system of Western missionary efforts. The optimism present during the New York 1900 Ecumenical Mission Conference was deeply challenged with the news of mass martyrdom of the Boxer Rebellion. Indeed the effects were felt all across the Western world. This juxtapositional shock would characterize the next few decades of the 20th century.

Six years later, the Holy Spirit visited Los Angeles, California with an incredible revival that transformed the face of missions forever. The Azusa Street Revival, led by the African American preacher William J. Seymour, birthed the modern Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement in the earth. Thousands flocked to Azusa Street to receive a baptism in the Holy Spirit during the years of the revival.

One of the most marked characteristics of Azusa was that it was not contained  geographically in the same way that the two Great Awakenings were. While the Great Awakenings mostly impacted America and Western Europe, Azusa was unique in its near global impact seemingly at the outset of the revival- in particular, its impact on the birthing of missions movements in the non-Western world.

In just over a century, Pentecostalism has exploded across the earth and now comprises over 25% of all Christians on the planet. Much of this population is indigenous to the Global South. The expansion of Pentecostalism has far surpassed every other denominational exploit in the non-Western world for the last hundred years. In Chile for example, Methodism has grown to 5000 believers while Pentecostalism grew to 2,371,000. In Brazil, the Baptist denomination grew to 1,050,000 while Pentecostalism grew to over 21 million believers! Pentecostalism is currently the fastest growing denomination in numerous parts of Africa. Within just two years of Azusa the movement had spread into over 50 nations including: Britain, Botswana, Scandinavia, Egypt, Holland, Syria, Germany, South Africa, China, Hong Kong, Ceylon and India.

The Azusa Street Revival poured the life of the gospel into the Global South to such a degree that the balance of leadership in global missions has shifted away from the West in recent decades. This shift can be traced back to Azusa.

In June of 1910, the World Missionary Conference was hosted in Edinburgh, Scotland with the expressed purpose of discussing the advancement of missions in the Protestant world. The SVM watchword, “The Evangelization of the World in this Generation” was adopted by the conference. In fact, John R. Mott, who served as its chairman described it as, “the most notable gathering in the interest of the world-wide expansion of Christianity ever held, not only in missionary annals, but in all Christian annals”.

Among the agenda items at the conference was a desire to see a genuine ecumenical movement of unity between the various denominations in the task of world evangelization. It was at this conference that a truly global church was envisioned. Another agenda item was the discussion of the transition of leadership and evangelism in foreign churches from Western missionaries to the indigenous believers in those nations. This was an unprecedented pursuit and demonstrated just how successful the missions movements in the East had been in the establishment of thriving indigenous churches.

Significantly, Edinburgh is understood to be the formal close of the First Era of Protestant Missions. The era of pioneering into the coastlands had concluded. The coastlands were reached and their indigenous believers were ready to begin to assume leadership in the place of Western workers. The prominence of “Kingdom Mission” (the holistic missions efforts of the William Carey era that sought to transform and “civilize” mission fields along Western cultural lines) was over and had given way to the Second Era of missions. The Second Era was marked by a “Church Mission”, with the emphasis off of societal gospel impact and on evangelism and personal salvation.

The legacy of the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference was that it marked a crescendo in Western missionary efforts to the unreached. It is seen by many as the highest point of Western leadership in world missions and the beginning of a truly global church. Andrew Walls said it well, “The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910, has passed into Christian legend. It was a landmark in the history of mission; the starting point of the modern theology of mission; the high point of the Western missionary movement and the point from which it declined; the launch pad of the modern ecumenical movement; the point at which Christians first begin to glimpse something of what a world church would be like.

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History of the Modern Protestant Missions Movement

Part 1

The history of Christian missions is vast and deep, stretching across nearly two millennia. From the moment Jesus commanded the disciples to, “Go into all the world…” so His Church has gone. Leaving all behind, they have gone out to follow the Lamb’s call for the rescue of the nations. Across continents and cultures, languages and generations His gospel has sounded forth through the earth rushing towards its eventual climactic conclusion- a conclusion of which we are privileged to be partakers. While all of missions history from the last two thousand years is important and is worthy of study, the following notes will examine the history of Protestant missions on a cursory level- specifically the era between 1722-1850. Most Protestant missionaries live life and serve overseas completely unaware of the magnitude of change and acceleration that has taken place in missions in the last 300 years of history. This acceleration has only continued into the present day with no signs of slowing down. For the modern missions movement to be fully appreciated, it must be contextualized within the broader history of missional Protestantism that began in 18th century Germany. It is only from understanding where we have come from, and the shoulders and foundation on which we are standing, that we can truly appreciate with inexplicable wonder the phenomenon that is the missions and prayer movement in the modern world.

 

After the birth of the Reformation in 1517 European Christianity experienced unprecedented transformation, particularly in the central and northern part of the continent. The influence of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and other reformers changed the entire theological landscape of Europe in one generation. However, the outward missional focus that was true of the historic Catholic European church was largely void in this new expression of Reformed Christianity, and for nearly 200 years there was no missional movement within in Protestant Christianity.

 

This was partly due to the fact that much of the new Protestant churches were focused on the expansion of Protestantism on a theological and ecclesiological level. During this time, the only two superpowers who were really interacting with the unreached world, Portugal and Spain, had remained staunchly Catholic and thus Protestantism could not expand through their transatlantic colonial influence. It is also important to realize that as a result of Reformation theology and ecclesiology, widespread dissolution of monastic sodalic orders in Protestant spheres wiped out the only sociological group that had historically been able to accomplish the task of world evangelization: The monks who lived lives fully devoted to prayer, worship and mission. Thus in this new expression of Christianity, the ancient driving force of old Catholic mission -communities of day and night prayer and vocational laborers- were largely absent due to backlash against monasticism. The net result was that for nearly two centuries there was very little Protestant missionary activity outside of Europe.

 

All of this began to change in the late 17th century through the early 18th century. During this time, four separate movements began to arise nearly in unison, each that contributed to the birth of Protestant missions. They were the: Puritans, Pietists, Wesleyans, and the Moravians. All of these movements paved the way for and contributed to the first wave of Protestant missions. Let’s examine them briefly:

 

The Puritans focused on conversion and the authentic simplicity of the Christian life. They also developed the first Protestant mission theology. The Puritans produced men like John Eliot (1604-1690) who traveled to New England and ministered as a missionary to the Algonquin Indians, established a number of Christian villages through converts and translated the Bible into their language.

 

The next group, the Pietists, further laid the foundation of Protestant missions. Arising out of the desolation from the Thirty Years War in central Europe, Pietism was a purist expression of Christianity that sought to return to the simple teachings of Jesus lived out in the daily lives of believers. The first Protestant missionaries to Asia came from the Pietist movement. In 1706, Frederick IV of Denmark sent Pietist missionaries to Tranquebar, India. Soon, over sixty Pietist missionaries had been sent to Asia. Some have regarded Pietism as, “The parent of missions to the heathen… also of all those saving agencies which have arisen within Christendom.”  

 

The Wesleyans, led by John & Charles Wesley, significantly helped to pave the way for the first Protestant missions movement. The impact of Wesleyanism, particularly in the American colonies during the years of the Great Awakening, cannot be overstated. We will discuss their impact more in the next section.

 

The final group represents one of the most remarkable and unique movements in history: the Moravians. The Moravian church, known officially as Unitas Fratum (Unity of the Brethren) began with a band of religious refugees from Moravia who made their way to the estate of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf in Berthelsdorf, Germany. Zinzendorf, brought up in the traditions of Pietism, allowed the believers to settle in his land in Upper Lusatia (modern Saxony). The village that was established by the refugees was called Hernhutt.

 

Within a few years, Hernhutt grew rapidly but by 1727 there erupted theological division in the community. Through the mediation of Zinzendorf, the community resolved their conflict and then, in August 13, 1727 a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit took place in Hernhutt that changed the course of history. This outpouring transformed the little community of brethren in Hernhutt into a renewal center for the world. The renewal movement produced 100 years of 24 hour continuous prayer and worship in Hernhutt. When the Moravians sent out their first missionaries, there were only about 300 people living in the community. Within 30 years, several hundred missionaries were sent out from Hernhutt across the Caribbean, Africa, East Asia, the New World, and even to the Arctic.

 

The Moravians were the first Protestant denomination to minister to slaves. There are stories of Moravians selling themselves into slavery in the Caribbean to reach slaves with the gospel. Out of these years came the “Moravian Anthem”, “May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering!”. They were the first to send out laymen as opposed to clergy. The first Moravian mission center was established in 1732 in St. Thomas. By the time Zinzendorf died in 1760, the movement had sent 220 missionaries to every known nation on earth except Australia. Their emblem is a lamb with a flag of victory. It reads, “Our Lamb has conquered; let us follow Him”. The monumental revival that broke out in Hernhutt in 1727 transformed missions across the globe forever. The Moravian movement was ignited, and with it the the birth of Protestant missions.

“May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering!”

 

The wave of renewal through the Moravians also had a broad ranging effect in England as well as the American colonies that would directly affect the nascent missions movement. Years of Pietism had prepared England and the colonies for revival and the Hernhutt outpouring was just the beginning of the awakening that was about to sweep the English speaking world.

 

In 1735, the First Great Awakening concretely exploded in Wales and, sweeping the British Isles and the American colonies, resulted in one of the largest revivals in history. Some of the most instrumental leaders of the First Great Awakening were directly impacted by the Moravians. Most notably John Wesley, who attributed his 1734 conversion experience directly to his interaction and fellowship with Moravian brothers from Germany. Wesley would later visit Hernhutt and stay with the Moravians for a time.

 

Wesley’s ministry in the colonies was no doubt directly influenced by the Moravians and would affect the New World dramatically in the years to come. The Great Awakening deeply impacted the colonies with the gospel and the influence of the Moravians on some of the greatest voices of the Awakening (John & Charles Wesley and George Whitfield) cannot be overstated. While it did not directly produce a wide scale missions movement, the First Great Awakening produced a missions spirit in the colonies that would last for generations. The immediate result was an increase in domestic missional activity towards the Native Americans. David Brainerd’s diary, (as published posthumously by his father-in-law Jonathan Edwards) which described his missional exploits to the Native Americans at the eventual cost of his life, spurred this missions spirit even more. Edwards, a major leader in the awakening, was even known to host prayer meetings for the advancement of world missions.

 

The collective impact of the Moravians and the First Great Awakening prepared the way for what missiologists refer to as, “The First Era”, of Protestant missions- the era of coastland oriented missions in the Far East. This era was ignited by two simultaneous events that have forever transformed Protestant missions: The Second Great Awakening and the advent of the ministry of William Carey.

 

By the end of the 1700’s, the new nation of America quickly found itself in severe spiritual decline. Universities were almost entirely secular, church attendance was dropping, and the morality of the nation was in decline. Yet, in the midst of the spiritual decay there were rumblings of awakening. Small camp meetings were beginning to be engulfed in revival and hunger for the Holy Spirit was returning to remnant groups of praying believers. Suddenly, on August 6, 1801, a torrent of revival broke out across America starting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky resulting in one of the mightiest revivals in American history. Incredible demonstrations of the Holy Spirit, conviction of sin and mass conversions were sweeping the nation- the Second Great Awakening had begun.

 

Anointed leaders like Charles Finney, Lyman Beecher, Barton Stone, Peter Cartwright and James Finley were used mightily by the Lord to bring the nation back to Himself. The spirit of missions that had been deposited through the First Great Awakening was now being fanned into flame through the Second. Many denominations that had been in severe decline were now filling up with new members as thousands entered the Kingdom and were saved through the ministry of the Holy Spirit across New England and the Midwest. Suddenly, numerous independent Christian societies began to emerge alongside accelerated local church growth. The atmosphere was electric with awakening and the nation was being prepared to send out her first missions movement to the ends of the earth.

 

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars had devastated Europe. Much of the European infrastructure was decimated and the continent was in shambles. The wars had cut the roots of the European overseas commercial network and thus the Catholic missions routes had been severed. It was in this context of awakening and shaking that God launched the First Era of Protestant missions- referred to by some as the “William Carey Era”.

 

William Carey was born in Northamptonshire, England in August 17, 1761. He was raised in the Anglican church and was married at the age of 20 to Dorothy Plackett. Although Carey came from humble beginnings (leaving school at the age of 12 and working as a shoe cobbler in his youth) he demonstrated tremendous brilliance, teaching himself Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Dutch, and French. At the age of 22, Carey was baptized and committed himself to the Baptist denomination.

 

In 1785, while pastoring a local Baptist church, he read Jonathan Edwards’ publishing of David Brainerd’s diary detailing his life and eventual death on the missions field. Upon reading his story, Carey was struck with a burden to see the gospel reach the very ends of the earth. Brainerd was so influential to William that he became one of his “canonized heroes” along with the apostle Paul himself! Carey was also deeply impressed with the example of the Moravians from the generation prior.

 

Although his heart was burning for missions, Carey found himself in a religious environment that was nearly hostile to the notion of cross cultural missions. The theological landscape of the time was almost entirely hyper-Calvinist and many Protestants believed that the advancement of the gospel to the ends of the earth had been only the duty of the apostles and now it was entirely up to God to save the lost. In 1787, Carey joined a Baptist ministerial meeting to inquire about the legitimacy of spreading the gospel across the earth. Shockingly, baptist minister John Collett Ryland is famously said to have responded to Carey: Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid and mine!. It is no coincidence that the vibrancy of hyper-Calvinism in the late 18th century created an environment that directly inhibited the advancement of world missions.

 

Carey, however would not be discouraged and five years later, in 1792, he published his magnificent missions treatise, “An Inquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens”. This five part book opened up a new discussion on the “means” by which Christians were obligated to advance the gospel to the ends of the earth. One of Carey’s greatest accomplishments was the initiation of real conversation around the nature of the church’s role in the advancement of world missions.

 

In October of that same year, Carey experienced breakthrough. In spite of much resistance, he and several colleagues founded the Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Amongst the Heathen (known today as BMS World Mission)- the first Protestant missionary agency in history. The significance of the establishment of this agency cannot be overstated. Since the dissolution of the monasteries in the Reformation, there had been no sodalic missional expression in Protestantism. For nearly 300 years there were only local church modalities. Carey’s simple book turned the conversation of missions towards the “means” by which the church was to participate. Carey and his colleagues understood that for the accomplishment of the task of the Great Commission there needed to be a subsequent means to do so that was beyond the local church and thus the Protestant mission sending agencies were born. This is one of the reasons that William Carey is known as the “Father of Modern Missions”. Carey’s vision for a new type of society transformed the Protestant understanding of missions forever. Gustav Warneck rightly described this year when he said, “Thus, the year 1792 may be considered the true birthday of modern missions”.

 

They began to quickly raise funds for the new society and in April of 1793, the new agency sent Carey, his family and Dr. John Thomas and his family to Calcutta in West Bengal, India, landing in October of the same year. While this was not the first Protestant missions team sent out (the Moravians and Pietists had sent out missionaries a generation prior), this team was unique in that it signaled a new era of missions specifically through the means of missions sending agencies. Thus the coastlands era was born.

 

The next hundred years marked the greatest acceleration in missions in the history of the world. This has come to be known as the, “Great Century of Missions”. Never before in history had such opportunity been presented to the church for the expansion of the Great Commission. Colonialism had opened up avenues to nations and peoples that generations in the past could never have dreamed of reaching. In the words of church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette, “Never before in history had Christianity, or any religion, been introduced to so many different peoples and cultures. Never before in a period of equal length had Christianity or any other religion penetrated for the first time as large an area as it had in the nineteenth century. Never before had so many hundreds of thousands contributed voluntarily of their means to assist the spread of Christianity or any other religion.” More was accomplished in span and scope for the gospel in the nineteenth century than in all of the previous centuries combined. If Martin Luther was the reformer of theology and ecclesiology, then William Carey was the reformer of missions.

 

Just as the gospel had spread rapidly in the early years of the church through the Roman roads, so the gospel was spreading rapidly through the colonial straits of European powers. The pioneering work of William Carey began a hundred year missions movement targeting the coastlands of Asia and Africa. Much of the interior of the continents were too dangerous and this first era of Protestant missions activity focused on bringing the gospel to the coastlands.

 

Despite the danger and risk, Carey was soon followed by hundreds of Protestant missionaries. The first North American missionary, Adoniram Judson, arrived in Calcutta in 1812 and was baptized by an associate of Carey’s. Carey urged the Baptist denomination in America to support Judson’s ministry, resulting in the establishment of the American Baptist Mission board in 1814. Departing from Calcutta, Judson and his family moved to Burma where he would live the rest of his life serving the Burmese peoples as a missionary. He died on a ship in the Bay of Bengal April 12, 1850 and was buried at sea.

 

This would be the story of almost all of the early Protestant missionaries. Nearly every Christian who landed on the coastlands of Africa and Asia died. In fact, no missionary efforts in Africa had been successful or survived whatsoever- including those of the Catholics and the Moravians. For the first sixty years of the First Era nearly every missionary sent to the coastlands of Africa died within the first two years in a near successive stream of certain death and loss for the sake of Christ’s name. Carey himself lost several friends, children and wives (he remarried several times) to foreign disease. It took him seven years to see his first Hindu convert. One need not look further than the early Protestant missionaries to see the true cost of the missions field. William Carey died in India June 9, 1834 at the age of 72. His motto, Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God” has inspired missionaries from every generation since.

 

A final look at the development of the First Era of Protestant missions is at the famous 1806 prayer gathering in Williamstown, Massachusetts that later became known as the Haystack Prayer Meeting held by five college students from Williams College.

 

The students, due to the religious hostility from secular peers, would gather off campus several times a week on the banks of the Hoosac River for prayer and discussion of the theology of missions in a place called Sloan’s Meadow. The students were Samuel Mills, James Richards, Francis LeBaron Robbins, Harvey Loomis, and Byram Green.

 

One day, in the summer of 1806- in the throes of the Second Great Awakening- after reading William Carey’s Inquiries, the five students were caught in a torrential downpour and thunderstorm while discussing the need of foreign missions to China. As the storm hit, they took shelter underneath a haystack and began to pray fervently together for God to raise up a student missions movement to the unreached of Asia. Sam Mill is supposed to have shouted to his friends in the midst of the storm, “We can do this, if we will!”. In that moment something happened in their hearts and their lives were changed- they afterwards dedicated their lives to the advancement of the Great Commission on the earth.

 

Two years later, as more students joined them, they began to call themselves, “The Brethren”, with a singular focus of giving their lives for the completion of the Great Commission. Word began to spread all over about the Haystack Prayer Movement and many college students began to be gripped for missions all across the nation. Many missions societies and agencies began to spring up on campuses across America out of this little prayer meeting.

 

Under the conviction that churches of America should sponsor the sending of laborers, the students requested for the establishment of a missions agency that would accomplish that task. In response, two years later in 1810, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was established: The first American missions sending agency. Adoniram Judson was among the first five students that they would send to India just a couple years later.

 

The legacy of the Haystack Prayer Meeting, just one of the many precious moments of the magnificent Second Great Awakening, would span well beyond the First Era of the Coastlands. Dozens of missions agencies were formed and countless lives impacted by a simple prayer meeting underneath a stack of hay in a summer storm. America can look back at her introduction to world missions through this little prayer meeting in Massachusetts in the summer of 1806. The Haystack Prayer meeting would directly influence both the formation of the Second Era, where missionaries would brave the interior of foreign continents for the sake of Christ and also the beginning of the mighty Student Volunteer Missions Movement.  

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Antioch Series: When Worship Prayer And Missions Collide // A Heavenly Family


#4- A Heavenly Family


By Acts chapter 6, the Apostles are so overwhelmed with the work that comes with revival that they call a meeting to figure out how to raise up and train “second tier” leaders to help carry the load of administration that comes with thousands of people under your pastoral care. They were in desperate need to return to the things they did at first anddevote themselves to the word of God and prayer.”  It is now about a decade since the day of Pentecost and they still haven’t left Jerusalem and there are no indicators that they were even considering the possibility of sending out laborers for the task that was given to them by the resurrected Lord Himself.


Something else was beginning to rear its ugly head in Acts 6 that was subtly going unnoticed in the Jerusalem movement. There was a deep undercurrent that was causing an ambivalence, yea even an aversion to the mandate to disciple all nations.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. – Acts 6:1


Yes, the busyness of revival was real, but something even more real was lurking in the shadows. We see the first glimpse of it in Acts 6 but it doesn’t come to the forefront until about another decade later in Acts 15. It finally comes to a head in ANTIOCH with a rebuke of an Apostle by another Apostle in front of the whole church.

Antioch becomes the flash point where God deals with the sin of racism in the global church in the first century. Antioch is the first place we see a multi-ethnic leadership over a multi-ethnic community. God was doing something unique in this community that was preparing them to be the sending center to the ends of the earth. God was tearing down strongholds that were preventing the church from fulfilling her destiny.

RACISM IS ANTI-GOSPEL AND THE ENEMY OF MISSIONS

 

As Gentiles begin to come into the kingdom and Antioch rises to prominence in the first century Christian movement, some teachers from Jerusalem, feel it’s their duty to visit these “barbarians” and bring some theological correction to their movement that was clearly “out of order”. Paul and Barnabas, who have been a part of this new multi-ethnic leadership team take issue with these racist ideas parading around as inspired words.

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” – Acts 15:1

Paul and Barnabas, who then were based in Antioch, challenge these ethnocentric, anti-gospel teachings and the debate makes its way to the very top. The Jerusalem council (Acts 15) was the first church council recorded and its purpose was to tear down cultural ideas that were masking themselves as theological truths and obstructing the advancement of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” – Acts 15:6-11

As the council reached its’ conclusion, those present penned a letter recognizing the legitimacy of these Gentile believers and exhorting them continue in the faith. The sent this letter to Antioch with a team of prophets accompanying Paul and Barnabas. This marks a significant transition in the Book of Acts where the church and leadership in Jerusalem no longer remain the central component to the Holy Spirit record of the God’s activity in the first century. From this point on Antioch and its multi-ethnic leadership team become the “central hub” of New Testament Christianity.

Even though Peter had the correct theological stance of “inclusion of the Gentiles through the gospel” at the Jerusalem council, we soon find out that having the right theological stance can be much different than acknowledging your own ethnocentricity and allowing God, by the power of the Spirit, to search you and fully deliver you from the culture that nurtured your fallen mindset.

When Peter finally makes it down to Antioch to see what is transpiring in this new apostolic center, he comes face to face with his own racism.

For before certain men came from James, he [Peter] was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” – Galatians 2:12-14

Paul’s rebuke to Peter’s conduct in Antioch is simple yet profound. I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

In other words…

 

The cross is the end of racism.

 

Paul says that his confrontation with Peter was over the truth of the gospel itself. Christ not only died for us, but died with us and as us. Now if you became one with Jesus on the cross and joined with Him in the grave, then it is impossible for you not to be raised with Him with a new nature. You died with Christ so that He could raise you with Him and justify you as righteous, holy, and blameless. God raised Jesus, vindicating His life of obedience, and in the same moment destroyed the power of death and the curse of the fall over you, having been raised with him. When he came out of the grave, you were reborn and now have a new nature inherited from the Second Adam.

You now are altogether different than who you once were. You no longer are identified with the nature you inherited from the first Adam. The finished work of the cross makes you a new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.Colossians 3:10-11 

This new nature you have inherited is Christ’s nature within you. You in Him and Him in you. This nature is shared by all who believe in Him.

Something finally clicked with Peter in Antioch. Maybe it took a public rebuke for his racist attitudes and actions to finally be purged. Later he writes, near the end of his life to the church dispersed all over Asia minor, You are a chosen race [genos], a holy nation [ethnos]…once you were not a people [laos], but now you are God’s people [laos]…”. 1 Peter 2:9-10

These words from Peter take aim at any remnant of ethnocentrism that may have been lingering in the dispersed believers throughout the Roman empire. The same Peter that pulled back from fellowship with brothers from different races is now declaring that through the body and blood of Jesus, God has created a whole new genos, ethnos, and laos. This new family, race, and nation is made up of believers from every ethnic group on the planet. The Blood of Jesus has freed us from every earthly, Adamic, unspiritual, means of separation. We no longer are defined by our Socio-Economic status, Politics, or cultural preferences. Jesus is the end of Ageism, Sexism, Nationalism and most of all Jesus is the end of racism. The church is a global family of affection and the ruling aristocracy in the earth. You have more in common with the brethren in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, and Indonesia than you do with your closest unbelieving friend that has the same political, cultural, and social views as you. You share the same spirit, blood, and nature.

Jesus displays this on his leadership first leadership team. The Lord handpicked men from polar opposite sides of the spectrum and turned them into something altogether new. He takes them through such a magnificent transformative journey that their former political allegiances, passions, paradigms, all melt under the power of the leadership and love of Christ and they in turn begin love each other in the same manner.

Racism denies the power of the cross and clings to the nature that we inherited from Adam. Racism and the Gospel are mutually exclusive. One cannot “deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Jesus” and at the same time attach themselves to ethnocentristic mindsets and racist attitudes. As Russell Moore so eloquently states, “You can’t serve Jesus Christ and Jim Crow at the same time.

We learn to love beyond ourselves when we embrace those that are ethnically and cultural different than us. The comfort of the homogenous bubble of Jerusalem Christianity was robbing the apostolic church from entering into the John 17 “glory” of being united in Jesus Christ across the diving wall of hostility that separated races. When we are surrounded by people who look like us, think like us, talk like us, and dress like us, our love is fenced in by our own comfort and self-importance. We are not loving like the cross teaches us to love, we are loving our self-reflection.

Racism makes us irrelevant because it refuses self-sacrificial love. Racism strips us of our authority as peacemakers standing between two parties at odds because it attaches itself to one side of the argument.  

Racism makes us deaf because we cannot hear the wounded groan of our brothers and sisters while our ears are clogged with cultural narratives. Therefore, we cannot “weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:15)

Racism makes us blind because we cannot see glaring injustices through the fog of political rhetoric. Like the lawyer in Luke 10, desiring to justify ourselves, we smugly ask Jesus, “WELL WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?!?!”

Racism is the enemy of missions because true missions is born out of a vision of the worth of Jesus that produces a self-sacrificing love for peoples and nations. These nations we would have nothing in common with on our own. Now the commonality we have with the unreached of the earth is the compassion of the Lamb that compels us towards and not away from our “enemies”. 

Here in Antioch they began to call themselves not by their ethnic identities, not by their national allegiances but simply by one word that described what they now were together, “Christians”. (Acts 11:26) Little Christs… crucified with Him, buried with Him, and raised with Him in the newness of life where there is no Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

What is the indicating marker in your life that tells everyone you are have been so radically transformed by the gospel and ripped out of your former passions, former mindsets, former allegiances? Is it not that we love what we formerly hated? And what does that love look like except to lay our lives down to serve those that could never repay us? Is it not that we care for our brother in his need?

 

Then we can truly call ourselves, “Christians”.

 

Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life, with more than 8 in 10 congregations made up of one predominant racial group. Jesus is calling the church to stare its racism in the face and repent. The current conversation about racial tension in America is an opportunity to do just that. Somewhere along the way we lost the biblical command to be “slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to angerand in its place we have inserted “categorize the opponent, attack with counterpoints, win the argument”. Make no mistake, God is using the discussions around police brutality, institutional racism, criminal justice reform, income disparity, educational inequality, southern strategy politics, privilege, ect… to refine us in love and humility. What’s at stake here is more than losing an argument, it might be losing our soul. The church in America divided over social, political, and economic issues says to the world that the gospel is weak, the kingdom is fractured, and Christ is an inadequate leader.

What we don’t realize is, by ignoring, dismissing or worse, actively emboldening one side of the conversation, we could actually be forfeiting our destiny as the church in this nation to become an Antioch at the end of the age. I believe that the church in America is called to be a sending nation that participates with the Lord of the Harvest in praying, training and sending laborers to the ends of the earth. We are throwing away our destiny with every dismissive, apathetic or argumentative attitude when it comes to race in America. The current racial climate is a training ground to teach us to love like never before and to cleanse us of our ethnocentrism so that we can actually look up and see the white fields ready for harvest in the nations of the earth.

 

R.A. Martinez

 

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Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, And Missions Collide // Sojourners

#3- Sojourners on the Earth

 

“Those that were scattered”… Arguably the most influential church in history was started by a small band of refugees who, in the midst their most painful season, took a simple step of faith and obedience that changed history.

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch… But there were some of them…who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” – Acts 11:19-21

Luke, the writer of Acts, gives us no insight into how the decision was made for these displaced believers to reach out across the “dividing wall of hostility” to share the gospel with people who were ethnically, culturally, politically and socially different than them but I am sure that the journey of their displacement from the Jewish “hub” of Jerusalem and their pilgrimage throughout the Greco-Roman world had much bearing on their eventual conclusion to preach the gospel to “the Hellenists also” and thus change history.

What was it that God was doing with this company of people that prepared them to pioneer the apostolic missions base of the New Testament? I believe that was God using their displacement according to His purposes and for His glory. I would go as far to say that it was necessary for them to go through their scattering in order to dislodge some fatal value systems they inherited from the Jerusalem church that would have prevented them from ever becoming the sending center they were destined to be together.

What was God aiming to dislodge and ultimately expel out of the hearts and minds of these Jewish believers by driving them from house and home, out of the bubble of “Jerusalem Christianity” as refugees into cities and towns to which they did not belong? I believe the Lord was warring against two subtle and lurking enemies of the gospel that were settling into the culture back in Jerusalem.

What was this monster hiding in the shadows right under Peter and James’ nose?

Well it is Pride but it has two ugly heads and they are named Nationalism and Ethnocentrism (Racism). They were and still remain the biggest enemy of the gospel and of missions.

These enemies of the embryonic missions movement had to be dealt with in order to see the fullness of what the church in Antioch was intended to be.  In this blog we will tackle the first and in the next blog we will take on the latter.

 

nationalism – exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups; loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness

 

NATIONALISM IS AN ENEMY OF THE GOSPEL

When you believed in the Lord Jesus and were baptized into the faith, you were re-born into an entirely new reality called “the kingdom”. Jesus says in the gospel of John, chapter 3, that you were “born from above” into a kingdom and a city that is from heaven.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [anōthen // from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” … That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. – John 3:3, 6

Jesus Christ, the God-man, was born of a woman but inherited a divine nature through the virgin birth from heaven outside of the curse Adam’s fall. He would live the life of complete agreement and total obedience to the Father that the first Adam failed to do. Then, he would allow men fueled by demonic rage to execute Him as a criminal in order pay the price of our broken covenant by death on a cross. In this, he removed the requirements of the curse from us by fulfilling the law on our behalf and it’s legal demands. By dying sinless, he could both pay our debt and take into himself the entire created order under the curse of Adam including you and I. He, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, would take us into Himself on the cross, not only dying for us, but dying with us and as us. When He came out of the grave, He did not come out by himself but instead brought with Him an entirely new order and creation that was re-born. What you formerly were and what you formerly belonged to has died in Christ on a tree. Paul tells us in Colossians 2 that we have died to the stoicheion of the cosmos. (Col 2:20) This is literally means that you no longer are governed by or belong to the fundamental principles and elements that govern this universe.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

You have died in Jesus and God has raised you with a new nature, not inherited from the first Adam but received from the perfect Son, the Second Adam, your older brother, Jesus Christ. You are altogether new and unique from what you once were. He has justified you as righteous, holy, and blameless because your life now is Christ’s and by nature you are joined with the Godhead.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself… – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

You are not from here. You were born from beyond the cosmos. The New Jerusalem has birth right citizenship. Therefore, nationalism at it’s core is anti-gospel because it is a lie that deceives the believer into thinking that where they live is where they are from and the culture they are surrounded by is the culture they belong to and must fight for.

The New Testament writers confronted this stronghold head-on. This was no side issue to the Apostles.

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…But my kingdom is not from the world.” – John 18:36

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. – 1 John 5:4

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:9-11

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. – Philippians 3:20-21

But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. – Galatians 4:26

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, – Hebrews 12:22

…but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. – Galatians 4:26

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… – Ephesians 2:19

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20


This is the reality of the “sent-ness” of every believer. You do not belong to your nation, culture or social sphere, instead you have been sent as an ambassador of the New Jerusalem to those realms to live out your days as representative of the city that is to come.

Most of us live our lives with far too little awareness of the heavenly realities around us. Most of us go through day after day and seldom feel the impact of the magnitude of what we are caught up in by belonging to Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the ruler of the universe. We woke up this morning and stumbled out of bed into the cosmic significance because of the finished work of the cross. We give little thought to it and consequently our lives often lack the flavor of eternity and the aroma of something ultimate.

When we lose touch with our heavenly citizenship we default back to our Nationalistic existence that finds it’s identity and feels it’s passions and claims it’s ownership over our political parties, economic status, social spheres, and cultural biases. When this happens, we lose that heavenly aroma on our lives and we can no longer be “peacemakers” standing between two opposing parties and bringing them together at the foot of the cross of Jesus. We forfeit the ministry of reconciliation when we become entrenched in the rhetoric of one nation opposed to another, one political party opposed to another, one race opposed to another, ect… We lose our ability to evangelize what we have antagonized, marginalized or tried to run out town with a court order or zoning law.

Nationalism confuses “the kingdom” with “my nation and it’s government”. When this happens, the church abdicates its role and authority and looks instead to the government or a political party as the manifestation of  “the kingdom”. We look to presidents, kings, senators and legislators to write laws that create the “Christian utopia” we expect to enjoy by coercing, pressuring or smothering anyone opposition to our “way of life”. When we confuse the advancement of political ideas with the advancement of the gospel, the believer then promotes that government and that nation as the primary catalyst for the advancement of the kingdom in the earth. So the nation, as we want or suppose it to be, must advance at all costs, especially at the cost of other nations. This is at its core anti-gospel and the enemy of the great commission.

When these lines begin to blur in the mind of the believer, then the enemy of the state becomes the enemy of the church. This will inevitably produce a prejudice and animosity towards any nation or people that is perceived to be a threat to “my nation” and “my way of life”. The litmus test of Nationalism in the church and in the heart of the believer is in whom we declare to be our enemy. This dangerous mixture of nationalism and so-called “Christianity” that identifies its enemy in opposing ethnic or political entities has born devastating and evil fruit throughout history. If we look in the rear view mirror, we will see Crusades, Inquisitions, and Genocides. One does not have to dig to deep to find the origins of thought that massacred 6 million Jews during the holocaust to be nurtured and endorsed by the church of that nation all in the name of God and country.

This violent spirit will, in turn, will cause the church to sell her birthright to disciple all nations (Matt 28:18) through the preaching of the gospel for the bowl of soup of political rhetoric and cultural biases that have little or no priority in the gospel. In short, nationalism makes the main thing, the tertiary thing (the gospel) and the peripheral things become of “supreme importance”.  

Whether we, as believers in America, can admit it or not, the money does not lie. How much money, time and passion the church in America spends on frontier missions and the advancement of the gospel among all peoples vs the money, time and passion we spend on partisan politics, culture wars, or maintaining our social-economic statuses does not even compare. As we say, “the proof is in the puddin’.”

All of the men and women commended for their faith lived and died in the light of the New Jerusalem and understood that they lived on the earth as “sojourners”. They lived in light of their position and reward in the New Jerusalem. This is Christianity 101. This enabled them to hold loosely to material possessions and national identities and emboldened them in radical acts of courage and love with martyrdom spirit.

By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God… These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. – Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16 

Only the cross frees us from Nationalism. Only in the denying of oneself, picking up the cross, and following Jesus can those thick cords of nationalism begin to break off of our hearts and minds. Through their suffering and pain, these scattered, sojourning believers in Antioch had experienced a revelation of the power of that cross. Clinging to national and ethnic identities had to be dislodged by the shaking of displacement and persecution. God, in His sovereign kindness, would allow them to be scattered from the comforts and securities of home, familiar, and roots so that they would be able to experience the reality of “seeking a homeland” and being “sojourners on the earth”. They had to experience the reality of having no homeland for themselves to discover that in fact they belonged to the “city to come”.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. – Hebrews 13:14

Antioch could have never been a “plant” of the Jerusalem church. If it was, it would have carried this ethnocentric and nationalistic culture with it. Those two realities would have choked out the destiny of the missions movement that in the prophetic womb of this company of believers. The mandate to the nations of the earth would have always taken a back seat to needs at home. The gospel would have been primarily to unto building their own nation. Their interpretive grid for the blessings of God would have caused them to spend it on themselves with no second thought about the unreached nations of the earth.

Instead, God took them on a journey of understanding the cross, doing a work in them through years of displacement that would culminate in arriving in Antioch and preaching to the Greeks also. And when the Holy Spirit would say to them a few years later,Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”(Acts 13:2-3), there would be no competing value, prejudice or indifference that would have to first be untangled before they could joyfully send their best to the ends of the earth.

 

R.A. Martinez

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Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, and Missions Collide // God rewrites our stories

#2- God rewrites our stories

How Jesus chooses and trains young leaders is profoundly important to the Antioch story and it is important to what God is doing across the earth as He is raising up Antioch Sending Centers”. These communities of prayer and worship are the “greenhouses” where God is cultivating laborers for the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the promise of the global harvest. There are leadership lessons that every young leader must learn if they are going to carry the weight of the much fruit that God intends to display through their lives for His glory.

Jesus is looking for something dynamically different than the world is looking for in leadership potential. Men are enamored with giftedness, intelligence, charisma, skill, and strength. Jesus is looking for purity, love, humility, and a willing spirit. Our destiny and assignments are dynamically affected by how we respond in the grace of God to Jesus’ leadership in every season of the journey. In this school of leadership there is promotion and demotion, fruit and pruning, favor and testing. Each season is an invitation to greater intimacy with Him and authority in the Spirit. He is forming leaders to be able to carry the weight of what He wants to release on the earth in the generation of His return. Each promotion and each test is sovereignly orchestrated by the Lord to address the deep issues of pride, ambition, fear and carnal wisdom that is currently operating in our souls that we cannot fully see outside of His help. Jesus is a tender leader, he walks with us gently. He does not show us the sin issues hindering our destiny all at once. Instead, He leads us through seasons, allowing us to cooperate with Him in grace. In the tests of delay and promotion, Jesus pries our grip off of what we imagined the fulfillment of the promises over our lives would look like so that we don’t reject the promise when it comes. In the delay, Jesus addresses the levels of our identity and self- confidence that are wrapped up in what our “dreams” and our “callings” are supposed to look like so we can be useful in stewarding what he actually wants to release. He breaks down all the confidence in what we think qualifies us and produces a brokenness that is a sweet fragrance to God. Many of you have already taken a few courses in this leadership school and know full well what I am speaking about.

Jesus is more committed to our destiny than we are.

He is currently developing the wisdom, humility and love you need to actually steward the fullness of the anointing and favor He wants to give you. If we remain unoffended at His ways, even when they seem contrary to our good and opposite from the prophetic promises given to us, we graduate each season. Soon we come to realize that the fulfillment of the promises are never like what we imagined and the fruit of obedience is not our primary reward, it is actually the intimacy we experience with Jesus on the journey that deeply satisfies us. He is our reward.

Jesus prepares apostolic vessels in the fiery furnace of delay. Those who won’t turn to the right or the left emerge as voices.

Peter declares to us that, if necessary, fiery trials are part of Jesus’ leadership over our lives to expose those hidden areas hindering our destiny. How we respond to those tests will determine how long and how often they are necessary. These fiery trials often have to do with the things that are closest to our hearts and emotions.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:6-7

Once, as a young leader, Peter had confidence in his own giftedness and zeal. He could remember firsthand what it felt like to go through Jesus’ leadership school.

Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night…” Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” – Matthew 26:31-35

Fast forward, Peter is utterly broken and quitting on his calling on the shores of the Sea of Galilee after denying Jesus three times. In his greatest hour of brokenness and need, Jesus, the tender shepherd, meets him and redeems his worst moment. Then and only then was he ready to “feed the lambs” and “tend the sheep”. Only about a month after this, Peter is standing up on the day of Pentecost, preaching with power and authority.


When God rewrites your story, He takes your worst moments and makes them the doorway into your destiny.


Here in Antioch, one verse changes all of history, “so Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Paul and he found him and brought him to Antioch.” (Acts 11:25) God, the great Author, was weaving a myriad of stories together in this one verse to bring about a historic moment. What happened in Antioch, like a earthquake in the spirit, sent shockwaves around the world that are still rippling throughout the global church today.

Without Barnabas, without Antioch, without those that were scattered, we do not get the greatest contributor to the spread of Christianity throughout the known Roman world, the majority of New Testament Epistles, our understanding of ecclesiology, missions, and Christian doctrine- we do not get the Apostle Paul. Yes, Antioch was the catalytic moment that launched the apostle Paul and therefore it stands as one of the most historic moments in church history. Before there were churches covering Asia Minor, letters written that would be read by countless men and women throughout history as inspired Scripture, there was a young anointed man with a historic calling on his life going through Jesus’ school of leadership.

God had to rewrite his story.

Barnabas went and searched for the young man, Paul, whom he had met a few years earlier in Jerusalem. Paul had all but quit. He was living back in his parents house trying to pick up the pieces of his broken life after a seemingly failed launch. Three years in the wilderness of Arabia, mistreatment by brethren, no acknowledgement by leaders, the disappearance of favor, dimming of vision for his ministry…. Not to mention everything he had was stripped away until he only has one thing left…. Jesus. The church in Jerusalem at that time did not want to associate with Paul and ended up sending him home to Tarsus. Back home in Tarsus, Paul had run out of ideas and opportunities to get his ministry up and running. He was back at his mom and dad’s house, trying to get a job as a tentmaker and trying to make sense of the last 10 years of his life.

But he was enrolled in the Lord’s leadership training program…

Barnabas finds him broken and discouraged. He was ready for one last leadership lesson from his gentle Instructor in the school of leadership. God uses even our worst moments and redeems our stories. 


The moment that Saul of Tarsus walked through the door at Antioch, God caught everyone into a glorious revelation of His divine plan and the goodness of His gentle leadership.

I don’t think we can appreciate the dynamics of this situation. The church of Antioch existed because of the persecution led by Saul against Stephen. (Acts 11:19) They were those that were scattered when they arrived in Antioch. And now, the man who was responsible for their persecution and the scattering of their families, driving them from their homes as refugees on the run for their lives, walks in the door behind Barnabas.

Antioch is where God rewrites our stories.

God brought Paul to the very place that was the consequence of his worst moment. His darkest hour- when he was a persecutor of the church and oversaw the systematic torture and imprisonment of every believer in Jerusalem- was now staring him in the face as he walked into the room.

God brought Paul to Antioch not only to launch him into his ministry but also to heal him from that orphan lie that constantly reminds him of the shame of what he has done and causes him to over compensate, over perform, and place unrealistic expectations on leaders and friends alike. He needed a father like Barnabas and a community like Antioch to walk with him as he begins to lean into a confidence that would carry him through the difficulty of his apostolic assignment. From this moment on he would know without a shadow of doubt…

Everything is Grace.

The Father doesn’t just redeem the good parts about us, He redeems even the parts we are most ashamed of and uses them for His glory. He doesn’t use us in spite of our weaknesses, He use us because of our weaknesses. He does He doesn’t choose men and women because they are talented, skilled or gifted. He uses whom He chooses and He chooses the weak things. Paul had to learn this  lesson before he could carry the kind of power and authority God intended to entrust him with.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7

Luke doesn’t give us any indicator that it took any amount of time for the leaders of the church to embrace Paul. Not only did they embrace him, but they put him in leadership in Antioch. Through their difficulty, their suffering, their displacement, and through their hardship they had too discovered something about the cross. So much so that when Paul “the former oppressor” walked through the door, they didn’t see him as the monster whose past disqualified him from his future. No, instead they hugged his neck saying, “God has redeemed our story just like He has redeemed yours”. In that moment, as the elders and families of the church in Antioch embraced him as a brother, I can imagine there were many tears as both persecutor and victim experienced the washing of the love of the Father knowing that all along– the pain, the confusion, even the weakness and sin of others was part of His divine plan, “to work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) Freedom from shame, unforgiveness, and hopelessness becomes the doorway to our destiny.

Every leader that God raises up to shepherd His people has to learn this lesson and it’s usually through much pain, brokenness, and difficulty in relationships. 

“On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses– … But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. – 2 Corinthians 12:5, 9-10

Paul could own his past, not in a condemning, self hatred or shameful way. He could own even his worst moments because they cannot disqualify him from his destiny but instead exalted the grace of Jesus. Now Paul can walk in confidence knowing that his past does not define him but only the call of God through the finished work of the cross.

Later Paul writes to Timothy, hopeful that his spiritual son would take these same classes in Jesus’ leadership school so that he too can carry the weight of being a faithful and gentle shepherd.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent… the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” – 1 Timothy 1:12-16

This is the foundational bedrock for the prophetic and praying community that sends apostolic laborers: A family who gets healed together, carries assignments together. When we say that Antioch communities launch apostolic messengers, I don’t think we have even begun to scratch the surface of what that means for the hundreds of thousands of young “Paul’s” who are right now back in their “Tarsus”, disillusioned and discouraged, sitting on world changing callings and don’t know that they are in Jesus’ leadership school. They need a Barnabas and they need an Antioch. I will tell you this, Antioch has a lot to do with God redeeming the stories of people that we don’t think are qualified to be missionaries yet. 

 

R.A. Martinez

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The Promise of the Seed

Is the Gospel a story or a promise? It is a promise that is unfolding in a story. It is the story of the manifesting promise.

I begin with the question and answer above because I believe that we need clarity as to what is the hope that we can cling to. A hope that can be touched through faith (Hebrews 11:1); a hope that is not just a blurry idea, but a clear promise. The Bible has a forward focus in its content and messaging, constantly looking to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Many of the authors of the books in the Bible were looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises that are clearly laid out in Scripture. Still today we are looking forward to the fulfillment of promises that God has made and that He will fulfill in His second coming. We are still awaiting the fulfillment of the Good News. We have had a wonderful deposit of good things to come (Ephesians 1:14, Hebrews 9:11) and yet we can know through the Scriptures that even greater realities of the Kingdom are in store to be manifested on the earth.

In this 3-part post we will take a step back and enjoy some of the unfolding story of the good news and how our King, Jesus, is bringing it to pass! We will take a look at: The first proclamation of the essence of the Gospel message, Salvation as Christ died and rose, and A look into the future through the Scriptures to the fulfillment of this wonderful promise.

The Promise of the Seed

The first recorded proclamation of the Gospel was pronounced as a curse against Satan in the hearing of Adam and Eve. As He did back then, Jesus continues to make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers in the heavenly places through His church (Ephesians 3:10). As the chains of slavery to fear, sin, and despair were falling onto the hands and feet of Adam and Eve (Romans 6:16; 8:15), our Redeemer walked into the scene and what to the serpent was a curse was a blessing to Adam and Eve.

“So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

God promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent! Adam’s failure would be undone not by his seed but by the Seed of the woman, here we find the first indication that Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Adam’s failure would impact not just the human race but all of the creation that God had subjected to Man’s authority (Romans 8:19-21). For God gave Man dominion over the works of His hands (Psalm 8:6). The devastating results of man’s fall would be seen in the unfolding of time as the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in man, the fruit of man’s acquaintance with evil through rebellion, would mature.

Somehow through Adam’s agreement with the serpent to rebel against God, the dominion and authority entrusted to Adam was temporarily delivered to Satan. Death from then on would become the norm of the human experience; death of those things that are good and beautiful. Sickness, disease, corruption, etc. would dominate the experience of the created order. Satan in a moment went from being cast down to once again having power and influence. Paul described him as “the prince of the power of the air” as he wrote to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:2). The beauty and harmony that once existed in creation was disturbed by a filthy frequency in the air. “But God who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) intervened in that moment with a sound of hope. The voice of God walked into the Garden of Eden.

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Can you imagine a voice that walks? How can a voice walk? I believe that this is the same Voice that created the heavens and the earth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-5, 14).

When all seemed lost, in man’s darkest hour a light shone with a promise that mankind could cling to. The pre-incarnate Son of God walked into the Garden as a voice of hope to fallen and guilty humanity when He promised that there would be a victory against the wicked power that had arisen on the earth. The power and authority that Satan had taken he would not be able to keep from the One who would crush his head. Jesus is the Light that was manifest to destroy the works of the evil one (1 John 3:8).

With sin in the mix humanity was separated from its loving creator and source of light. Lost in darkness, mankind was helpless but for God’s continual mercy that reached out to man, reminding man of the promise. Sinful man could not draw near to a Holy God, but God was at work among man to fulfill His promise! We can see His hand at work in Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Caleb and Joshua, the judges of Israel, Samuel, David, etc. God used each of these and many more in His redemptive plan to declare and bring about that promised Seed.

The promised Seed, promised to mankind, would bless the nations through the nation of Israel (Genesis 22:18). God chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his descendants to be the vehicle through which He would bless the nations; those who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” who had no hope and were without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). In His sovereignty God chose Israel as the people through which He would manifest His great promise, Jesus the Messiah!  God intends to bless the nations through Israel and even after much of the nation of Israel missed their promised Messiah in His first coming they will still be a blessing in the earth. “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15).

God continued to expound upon the initial promise He made against Satan and for humanity throughout the Tanak, that is, throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. Covenants and promises were made with the people of Israel starting with Abraham and passed along to Isaac and then to his son Jacob; promises through which Israel had a hope. These covenant promises included a blessing for all of mankind as God told Abraham that through his offspring all the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). All the covenant promises find their ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. Through the Mosaic (Old) Covenant, sacrifices were established that could cleanse man from sin outwardly allowing for a level of nearness to God not given to any other people. These sacrifices however were powerless to take away sins and to cleanse their consciences (Hebrews 10:1-4).

The condensed promise of the Seed was unpacked through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets throughout the Old Testament. Even the wicked sorcerer Balaam had a share in prophesying about the magnificent Messiah who would deliver Israel from her enemies (Numbers chapters 23 & 24). These promises were literal for blessing and deliverance for the people of Israel. A King would rule over God’s people and over the nations of the earth with righteousness and justice (Isaiah 9:6-7)! Is this not the desire of the oppressed in the nations (Haggai 2:7)? The desire of the nations is to have a just and benevolent ruler, One who cares for the orphan and the widow, One who overturns injustice and gives recompense.

The promised Seed would crush the head of the serpent and take dominion over the earth, and we know that it is God’s desire that mankind would also rule with Christ. Therefore the task of world domination that Christ will fulfill, He will accomplish with the participation and engagement of men and women (Psalm 110:1-3). However with the defilement of sin mankind would not be fit to partner with a Holy God. In order to have His desired partner, God had to cleanse humanity from sin.

 

Sebastian Angulo, MAPS Leader

 

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Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, and Missions Collide // The Divine Slingshot

#1- The divine slingshot

In Matthew chapter 9, it says that Jesus was moved with compassion as he saw the demonic harassment and oppression over the masses. The greek word literally means a gut wrenching sorrow or sick to his stomach as he looked out over the nations who were “like sheep without a shepherd”. His divine heart of love for the world could not stomach the oppression, affliction, injustice, disease, over the very ones he created in his own image for his own pleasure to display his own glory. He calls his disciples together and says,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out [ekballo] laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38

The solution to the ache in the heart of Jesus was laborers. The problem was that there were no laborers that had yet been swept up into that torrent of compassion that was in the heart of Jesus and had gained the kind of authority in the place of prayer to be effective. So he calls his disciples together and gives them a divine prescription. He tells them to contend earnestly in prayer together until, like a slingshot, laborers start getting hurled out [ekballo] into the nations to carry his divine heart with apostolic power.

Jesus knew that 3 things would happen when they gather together.

1. They would see his worth. (worship)

2.The would feel his heart. (prayer)

3.They would be baptized with power for the assignment. (prophetic)

Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction (Matthew 10:1). You can be sure Jesus wanted the disciples to connect this kind of authority to the command to earnest corporate prayer.

Communities of corporate prayer and worship become the slingshot for laborers. The kind of laborers needed for the harvest in the nations are born, nurtured and sent from worship and prayer communities. Jesus has zeal that these laborers would reproduce this culture in every city and nation to which they are sent. (Mark 14:9, Malachi 1:11)

The majority of your New Testament can be traced to a House of Prayer in an city called Antioch. Many have never even heard of this prophetic community that could arguably compete with Jerusalem in terms of its implications for New Testament Christianity and lasting impact on the Church in the earth.

A little history…

In Acts chapter 1, Jesus stands on the Mount of Olives just before he ascends into heaven and gives the command to tarry in Jerusalem in prayer and worship until something happened. He points them back to the divine prescription of Mathew 9 that would, he promised, unleash an outpouring of the Spirit which would clothe them with power and thrust them out to declare his name and commandments in every nation.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”-  Acts 1:4-8

The outpouring at Pentecost was an empowerment for an impossible task that Jesus had mandated the apostles with. One small community led by a group of fishermen, tax collectors, rebels and prostitutes would touch the entire earth with power.

…..when the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. – Acts 2:1-2

Overnight, the church in Jerusalem explodes from a few hundred to a few thousand. Luke records this season of revival in Acts 3-5. Numbers began to be added daily them and unprecedented signs and wonders were being done at the hands of the Apostles. It is clear by Acts chapter 6 that they are just trying to manage and administrate this revival. All the while the to the ends of the earth mandate, which was the purpose of this outpouring of the Spirit, had come to rest on the back shelf of the prophetic words of the Apostles.

Then something transitions in Acts 7-8.

About a decade into the movement in Jerusalem, the “second tier” leaders are moving in such power and authority that it stirs up resistance resulting in the arrest and murder of Stephen. This event marks the beginning of what the Bible calls a season of great persecution for the church under the leadership of an up and coming young Jewish leader named Saul. The church is scattered throughout the region, on the run, and Acts chapter 8 picks up with one of the apostles, Phillip, who escapes to Samaria and others who were scattered “traveled as far as Phonecia and Cyprus and Antioch” (Acts 11:19-20)

When these “no names” arrive in Antioch they decide to preach the gospel to whoever will listen. They figured that if they are going to be persecuted and scattered from their homes because of Jesus and the gospel, they might as well earn it!

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. — Acts 11:20-21

All of a sudden something amazing happens, the hand of the Lord backs their simple obedience with signs, wonders, and miraculous power so that overnight they have a great number who believed. Up to this point they had only heard stories from decades earlier when Peter first preached on the day of Pentecost. Now they too were experiencing a Pentecost of their own! They were so taken off guard by this move of the Spirit that they sent word to Jerusalem asking for help.

Meanwhile…

…something strange and marvelous had happened to that zealous young Jewish man leading the persecution against the church. He had a life-altering encounter with the man Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and a word spoken over his life about his purpose and destiny (Acts 9:1-19). Over the next decade Paul is searching for how in the world he is going to fulfill this newfound calling and assignment to “carry [the name of Jesus] before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). He retreats to the wilderness of Arabia to unlearn everything that he had been taught sitting at the feet of Gamaliel and by spending 3 years sitting at the feet of another teacher, who would “guide him into all truth” and “search the deep things of God…and revealing the things freely given to us”. Paul later writes of this season, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ”. (Gal 1:11-12) Eager to launch his new ministry and declare everything he had received by revelation in the wilderness, he goes up to Jerusalem from Arabia hoping to receive the endorsement of the Apostles and get a seat at the table with leaders of this new movement. Maybe they would be able to vouch for him? Maybe they could send out a letter endorsing his ministry? Maybe they would even let him join their inner circle (Acts 9:26). Paul imagined this could be his big break and couldn’t stop dreaming of all the possibilities that were ahead of him.

His visit, however, does not go as planned. He spends a few weeks with Peter but no one else wants to associate with him because they are afraid. No doubt some of them had suffered personally at the hand of Paul himself, if not under the orders Paul had given a few year earlier. James, the brother of Jesus, finally agrees to grab a quick coffee with him. We don’t know what was discussed in the Jerusalem Starbucks that afternoon but after that meeting all of Paul’s hopes for strategic networking with the major leaders of his day were replaced with the stark reality that no one cares about his big ministry or his prophetic word that the Gentiles will be included in the kingdom. To make matters worse, he gets into a spat with the Hellenists and stirs up a trouble for the church in the city to which it says the brothers kindly, “brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” He leaves his first visit to Jerusalem without receiving the “right hand of fellowship” from the Apostles, with death threats on his life, no big break, no endorsement, and asked by the brothers to just “go home.” He says of this moment, “I was still unknown” to the churches of Judea and later he writes with a sting of pain but also great confidence that he is  “an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead(Gal 1:1)

Unbeknownst to Paul, this visit proved to be more strategic and fruitful than he could have ever realized in the moment. Although the apostles had all but snubbed him and all the believers in the city were afraid of him, one man in Jerusalem saw something in this young anointed leader that was intriguing and pulled him aside. He wanted to hear the whole story from beginning to end, listening intently to every word Paul had to say. His eyes glistened with excitement when he heard the vision on the road to Damascus. His face showed empathy and concern when Paul described being chased out of Damascus by Jewish zealots. His tone gave no hint of skepticism or cynicism when Paul spoke about the things he encountered by the Spirit over 3 years in the desert of Arabia.

This man was generous and much loved, he was known for his gentle manner and encouraging words. Years earlier Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts, introduces him as a wealthy man who was so happy to be a part of what God was doing and so sincere in his desire to serve, that he sold a field that belonged to him and laid all the proceeds at the Apostle’s feet. This man was name was Barnabas.

Paul sails home to Tarsus. His hopes for an apostolic ministry are shattered. He has no endorsement from major Christian leaders. He has no network to pull from. He has no idea how this word he heard from Jesus himself would become an assignment he could actually walk out. Paul arrives in Tarsus to try to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.

In Tarsus, Paul’s family was of a strict Jewish order. They were wealthy, prominent, landowners and strictly conservative. No doubt they had already heard about their son’s “psychotic episode” and his subsequent abandonment of the Jewish faith, his future, his career and his family. It is safe to say that by this time they had already publicly renounced him as an unbelieving gentile who was unworthy to even sit and dine at their table. He had shamed the family name. To make matters worse, some scholars believe that Paul was married prior to his encounter on the road to Damascus and that his wife, upon hearing of his conversion, left him and returned to Tarsus where she would be taken care of by his family.

Everyone in his hometown knew what had happened. As he lands in Tarsus, he made his way up to the house that was so familiar to him from his childhood, to beg his Father for permission to stay on the property. His family can’t hide their embarrassment that he is back home. His estranged wife didn’t want to hear the story of how he met Jesus, she just wants Paul to stop this crazy talk. She just wants her old husband back. He has to eat with the other servants of the house. The world seems to be crashing down on Paul. Deep questions arise in his heart about whether he had heard Jesus rightly. If he had obeyed, why is everything seemingly going wrong? Why, at every turn, is he getting farther and farther away from his calling to be an apostle to the Gentiles? Should he just quit and settle in to being a tent-maker in Tarsus? At least he knows he is good at that. Here in Tarsus the pain of promises delayed turn into questions of whether the promises were even real in the first place. Here in Tarsus, Paul is sitting on a history shaping, earth shattering, apostolic calling while he stretches the next goat skin over another tent frame to sell just to make enough money to live on. Hope deferred has made his heart sick and he is ready to throw in the towel on his calling. He remembers his excitement on his way up to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles and scoffs at his once “big dreams”. Now it was time to get on with real life.

There was only problem with this plan. He had seen Jesus.

Back in Antioch…

The report comes to Jerusalem from the revival in Antioch. Gentiles are receiving the gospel, numbers are being added daily, power, signs and wonders and who was leading it? Just a group of ones that were scattered from the persecution. Peter reads the letter out loud to the leadership team and as he finishes, he looks up and surveys the room. Finally with a twinge of hesitancy he asks, “Anyone want to go Antioch?” Everyone has a perplexed look on their faces as the silence grows thick. Peter, looking for any hint of willingness in the eyes of his leaders, sees one man in the corner with a with a smile from ear to ear.

“I’d be happy to go if it I could serve in anyway”, the unmistakable voice comes from the corner.

So they sent Barnabas to Antioch. (Acts 11:22)

When Barnabas arrived he saw what was happening in this amazing church. This group of refugees were praying and worshipping day and night, fasting, preaching the gospel with power signs and wonders, embracing people from all different ethnicities and had an unusual prophetic spirit operating in their midst. He was so excited to see this move of God. It reminded him of the revival he got saved in over a decade earlier. He encouraged these inexperienced leaders to keep going, keep pressing in, keep hosting the presence! He wasn’t there to take over, he was there to be a father to this budding new movement. Soon Barnabas began to wonder what the Lord may be up to in this new outpouring. Why here in Antioch? Why with these scattered, unseasoned leaders? All of a sudden it dawned on him. It was so obvious that at first he couldn’t believe he didn’t see it earlier. All the elements were there.

God was building a slingshot.

What Barnabas did next changed the course of human history.

So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. – Acts 11:25-26

He had believed in Paul ever since he met him years earlier in Jerusalem. It pained his heart when the brothers sent him off to Tarsus. He knew this young man had a history-shaping calling on his but he needed to be put into the slingshot of Mathew 9 until he got an assignment.

Antioch was the place.

Barnabas went and retrieved the broken man from Tarsus and brought him to the family in Antioch that embraced him with open arms. It says for a year Paul, Barnabas and the church of Antioch met together contending in prayer, fasting, worship, saturating themselves in the word and warring with the prophetic promises.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” – Acts 13:2

One day in the prayer meeting, while they were worshiping the Lord, the Holy spirit broke in and took over the meeting. It was time for an ekballo. It was time to hurl forth laborers into the harvest field. Jesus had formed the kind of laborers he desired to send in Antioch and was ready to clothe them with power from on high.

Paul and Barnabas.

Then, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and commissioned them with that divine commission that Jesus first uttered to those in the upper room years earlier, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded you. And behold, he is with you always, to the end of the age”. Then they sent them off…being sent out by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:4)

This commissioning wasn’t given in the strategy meeting about how to reach the nations, it was born in earnest corporate prayer. It was nurtured in a community that hosted the presence of God in worship. They did not despise the prophetic spirit but eagerly awaited the in-breaking of a “now” word that they could pray through into completion. (1 Tim 1:18) They were the slingshot that God used to launch Paul into his apostolic ministry that is still bearing fruit in the nations to this day. The expansion of Christianity across the Roman world, majority of your New Testament and the understanding that the Gentile nations are being grafted in to the promises of God can all be traced back to the moment when Barnabas went to Tarsus, picked Saul up out of his despair, believed for him when he could barely believe for himself, and placed him in the divine slingshot….Antioch.  

 

R.A. Martinez

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Antioch: Where God Rewrites Stories

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Israel, Islam and the Harvest

God has a spectacular plan at the end of the age. We must understand the continuity in Jesus’ leadership over the earth and over the nations if we are to understand how these three global issues relate to and converge together at the end of the age: Israel, Islam, and the Harvest. God has intertwined the destiny of the Gentile church, the destiny of those in the Muslim world and the destiny of the Jewish people together in a spectacular narrative that is going to play out on the global stage in the days ahead.

So I ask, did they [Israel] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!… Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob” – Romans 11:11-12, 25-26 ESV

Israel bore the burden of the promises of God for thousands of years in order for God to bring salvation to all the nations of the earth. Now the church in the nations is bearing the burden of the promises of God for two thousand years that will bring bring salvation to Israel. Both of them will come to fullness in the generation of the Lord’s return.

This phrase “fullness of the Gentiles” is the greek word pleroma which can mean a few distinct things:

It can be used to describe the body of believers that is filled with the presence, power, riches of God and of Christ. It can also describe a container that is filled to the brim or a ship that has reached max capacity of passengers and personnel. Lastly, it can mean the completion of something or the fullness of time.

I think in Paul’s mind, all three of these meanings are applicable to this verse and dramatically shaped his Missiology. Our Eschatology must inform and fuel our Missiology. What did Paul understand in the plan of God for the earth that he would write “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of [Israel]. My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they would be saved” (Romans 9-10) and then just a few chapters later write, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience–by word and deed, … and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.'” (Romans 15)

Paul endeavored to preach the gospel where Christ had not yet been named because he understood in the sovereign plan of God that his assignment to the Gentiles would lead to a global worship movement in all nations that would provoke his kinsmen according to flesh to jealousy. When Israel comes into her full restoration under the New Covenant, the whole earth will experience a restoration that Paul described as life from the dead

Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! … For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? – Romans 11:12, 15 ESV

When all the nations sing and when Israel receives her Messiah, “the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.” (Zechariah 14:9)

Where does the Muslim world come into play? Paul understood that part of the “fullness” that the Gentile church is going to experience is connected to Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24:14. There in a fullness that is yet incomplete in the nations. That deficit is a witness of the gospel in every ethno-linguistic people group.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations [ethnos], and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14 ESV

Again in Acts Chapter 1, when the disciples ask about the restoration of Israel, He does not rebuke them but instead redirects them to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the pathway towards the restoration of Israel. 

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:6-8

There are approx 16,500 identifiable people groups or ethnos in the earth today. Out of all the unreached people groups in the earth, almost half (3,573) of them are located in the Muslim world. The population of the Islamic world is 1,537,185,000. 80.4% of those 1.5+ billion people have yet to hear a witness of the Gospel and the church has yet to take root among them. To say it another way, 1,343,613,000 Muslims have yet to hear and experience the gospel of the kingdom.

Jesus prophesies that there is a last great harvest to come in before “then the end will come”.

God has reserved this last great scenario to show off his glory, sovereign leadership over human history and his great mercy. If Matthew 24:14 is true, that means that we are about to see a grace come upon the church that has never been seen before on the earth. We are about to see God release a fullness on the church that will produce the greatest apostolic missions thrust that has ever been witnessed in one generation that will lead to the fullness of the Great commission that will graft hundreds of millions of Muslims into the covenantal promises though salvation in Jesus. The harvest in the Muslim world will prophesy and provoke Israel to jealousy and God will magnify the worth of Jesus in all the earth by taking the two sons of Abraham and reconciling them through the gospel of Messiah.

This generation of prayer and missions will have a holy bullseye on the Muslim world and a holy burden for the Salvation of Israel.  They will witness the destiny of the church, the destiny of the Muslim world to exalt Jesus through day and night prayer and worship, and the destiny of Israel to receive their Messiah and usher in the King to Jerusalem.

 

R.A. Martinez, Director of MAPS Global